By Houda Trabelsi
A leaked video featuring Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi strategising with young salafist leaders is causing controversy in Tunisia.
In the video, which was first broadcast last April and re-broadcast October 9th, Ghannouchi said, “The secularists are still controlling the media, economy and administration. Therefore, controlling them would require more time.” He added that “the police and army’s support for Islamists is not guaranteed, and controlling them would also require more time.”
“I tell our young salafists to be patient… Why hurry? Take your time to consolidate what you have gained,” Ghannouchi said before advising them to “create television channels, radio stations, schools and universities” to push their agenda.
The Ennahda leader said, “We’ve met with Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the salafists, including Sheikh Abou Iyadh and Sheikh al-Idrissi.”
Abou Iyadh, also known as Seif Allah Ben Hassine, is currently wanted by Tunisian police in connection with the September 14th attack on the US embassy.
In the video, Ghannouchi said he was “not afraid” to include an article in the new constitution on Sharia law. He went on to mock secularists who accept Islam and fear Sharia. “They are like those who accepted content but rejected the name itself,” he said.
He also told the salafists about achievements that were made for them after Ennahda came to office. “The government is now at the hands of Islamists, the mosques are ours now, and we’ve become the most important entity in the country,” he said.
“The Islamists must fill the country with associations, establish Qur’anic schools everywhere, and invite religious preachers because people are still ignorant of Islam,” Ghannouchi continued. In his first reaction to the leaking of video, Ghannouchi said that his words were “taken out of context”, adding that the secularism he denounced was “the radical and extreme secularism”.
“My words were misunderstood,” Ghannouchi said. “I was only debating with a number of salafist young men so that they may not deal lightly with the police, army and state, and nothing else.”
After the release of the controversial video where Ghannouchi told salafists to adopt a policy of gradual changes to consolidate Islamists’ control over the government, 75 representatives demanded the dissolution of Ennahda for what they said was a conspiracy against civil state.
Hatem Farahat, a lawyer, filed a legal action against Rachid Ghannouchi and accused him of “conspiring against the country’s internal security”.
In her turn, opposition Republican Party Secretary-General Maya Jribi said that “what Rachid Ghannouchi said in the video is a plan to build a non-civil state to undermine the state and destroy trust between components of society.”
“The more dangerous thing is condoning extremist entities and urging them to gradually build an extremist religious state,” she added. “The election and political process in Tunisia are threatened by this speech.”